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Congress / POLITICS

Williams Gets $2 Million Deal From Fox

photo of Ben Terris
October 22, 2010

When NPR closes a door, Fox News opens a window.

Just one day after being fired by NPR for comments about Muslims on The O’Reilly Factor, Juan Williams has been offered a three-year contract from Fox News for nearly $2 million, the Los Angeles Times reports. Williams has been a guest on Fox News in the past, but this contract will make him an exclusive regular on Fox programming and give him a column on FoxNews.com.

"Juan has been a staunch defender of liberal viewpoints since his tenure began at Fox News in 1997," said Fox News Channel President Roger Ailes, according to the Times. “He’s an honest man whose freedom of speech is protected by Fox News on a daily basis.”

 

Williams has been making the rounds on Fox to give his take on being fired. This morning on Fox and Friends, Williams said NPR took his quote out of context to make him sound bigoted against Muslims.

“If I see people identifying themselves as Muslims as I’m getting on a plane with them, it causes me a visceral, instinctive feeling of fear,” Williams said. “That’s what I said. This is not an opinion. I am not saying that I would discriminate against these people, I’m not saying it’s evidence of prejudice I have against all Muslims, I’m simply saying that I have that moment. I know they’ve been through security, I’ve been through security, I know they have constitutional rights. Look, I am not a bigot. Why do I even have to tell you guys?”

This comment mirrors the one Williams said on The O’Reilly Factor on Monday that resulted in his dismissal by NPR. Williams claims he was fired because NPR did not like him appearing on Fox News.

"They don't like me talking to people like you," Williams said to the cast of Fox and Friends.

According to NPR CEO Vivian Schiller, however, Williams was fired because he crossed the line of what a news analyst can do.

“NPR News analysts have a distinctive role and set of responsibilities,” Schiller wrote in an e-mail to NPR member stations. “This is a very different role than that of a commentator or columnist. News analysts may not take personal public positions on controversial issues; doing so undermines their credibility as analysts, and that's what’s happened in this situation.”

Schiller went further at a news conference Thursday when she said, “Juan feels the way he feels. That is not for me to pass judgment on. His feelings that he expressed on Fox News are really between him and his psychiatrist, or his publicist, take your pick.”

Williams said that labeling him as “mentally unstable” or as some sort of “lunatic” was a low blow.

“So now I’m a psycho, now I’m mentally unstable,” Williams said Thursday night on The O’Reilly Factor -- where he will be the guest host this evening. “That’s insulting.”

Schiller has since offered a public apology to Williams.

The controversial firing of Williams has made some commentators and politicians -- including Bill O’Reilly, Newt Gingrich, Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee, and Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C. -- call for a removal of NPR's taxpayer funding.

On Fox and Friends, Williams said the notion that NPR is a "public jewel" that needs the protection of the government is "nonsense."

"I'm not about attacking NPR," he said. "But if they want to compete in the marketplace, they should compete in the marketplace, they don't need public funds. If they think their product is so great, go out and sell the product."

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